This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
In March of 2020, the UFC was forced to cancel its card in London due to the pandemic, and for the first time since, the promotion is heading back to showcase its UK-based talent.
If you're hoping to turn the event into an opportunity to build your DFS bankroll, DraftKings.com has you covered with a full slate of contests, including a $400k UFC Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
Takedown (TD): +5 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +10 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +90 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +45 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +30 PTS
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)
- Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
- Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
- A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
- A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.
Main Event - Heavyweight
A legitimate high-end prospect in a division that needs all the depth – quality, or otherwise – it can find, Aspinall faces what is by far his stiffest test to date in what amounts to a home game for the Brit. He arrived on the scene in September 2020 and has won all four of his fights with the company (Sergey Spivac, Andrei Arlovski, Alan Baudot, Jake Collier), each one via stoppage, and three of which earned him $50,000 Performance of the Night bonuses. Aspinall has a boatload of power and has proven to be a strong, competent wrestler. I'm a buyer.
Regular readers of this column are also well aware I've been a huge Volkov supporter for quite a while. The former Bellator Heavyweight Champion is 8-3 in the UFC. One loss came against Derrick Lewis in a fight he was dominating before being knocked out with 11 seconds remaining. The second was a fight against Curtis Blaydes in which he couldn't defend a takedown, and the third came against Ciryl Gane. In short, Volkov joined the UFC with the reputation as a high-end fighter, and he has, for the most part, lived up to that reputation.
Volkov is 6-foot-7 and an exceptional kickboxer. He has two inches on Aspinall in both the height and reach department, and I'm interested in seeing how Tom fares as the smaller man. Volkov tends to stand at distance and fire off a bunch of kicks, but that strategy will be tested due to Aspinall's aggressiveness.
I think there is a real chance Aspinall – who averages 2.73 takedowns per 15 minutes – tries to lean on his wrestling here. Of course, Volkov is no pushover in that area. His career takedown defense with the company is a solid 73 percent, and that takes into account the 14 times Blaydes got him to the mat. Remove that fight and I bet he's north of 90 percent.
I have flip-flopped on my pick here countless times. The salaries are relatively close and Aspinall has far more finishing power, so I guess he's probably the better DK play, but Volkov is excellent at using his length to his advantage. He's also ridiculously durable, with the last-second knockout loss to Lewis being his only stoppage defeat since November 2013. I'm worried about Aspinall's power and I'm worried about the crowd, but Volkov has the skill set to pull a minor upset here.
THE PICK: Volkov
Co-Main Event - Featherweight
Hooker is tough as nails and a blast to watch, but to say he needs this fight is the understatement of the century. He is 1-3 in his past four bouts dating back to June 2020. Yes, those three defeats came at the hands of Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler and Islam Makhachev, but a fourth defeat in five fights will torpedo Hooker's chances of every getting back on track in any weight class. Hooker is legitimately talented, but it's safe to say at this point that he isn't on the same level as the top guys in the lightweight division. Thus, he is dropping back down to featherweight here, where he hasn't fought since his second UFC bout in November 2016. Hooker is a big guy, and I think his skills could play up if he is able to make the weight cut without issue.
Allen is one of the better fighters in the UFC no one ever seems to talk about. Part of the reason is because he rarely fights. We saw him just once in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. 2019 was his "busy" year, in which he made two appearances. Some of that was due to injuries suffered by both Allen and his opposition, and I can't imagine the pandemic helped matters. Overall, Allen is 8-0 with the company, although six of the eight have come via decision.
Allen is clearly solid, but a deeper dive into the numbers makes me wonder if some regression is forthcoming. In addition to showing little stopping power in his hands, he lands just 2.96 significant strikes per minute. On the flip side, he absorbs just 2.15 per minute. He's a reasonably solid wrestler, although his 1.44 takedowns per 15 minutes isn't exceptional. I'm not sure Allen has that one single elite skill to fall back upon in event of an emergency.
This is smart matchmaking. Like Aspinall in the main event, Allen – from Ipswich, England – should have a huge home field advantage in the O2 Arena. Of course, Hooker is about the coolest customer around, so I doubt he'll be overwhelmed battling in enemy territory.
Allen is good, but he's not on the level of Poirier, Chandler and Makhachev. I'm going to roll the dice that Hooker still has a little bit of gas left in the tank and can win a close one. We're going to find out awfully quickly whether or not he's finished.
THE PICK: Hooker
This fight was originally scheduled to be Nelson v. Claudio Silva before the latter was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury.
By far the biggest storyline of this fight is the return of Nelson. Gunnar has been on the sidelines since September 2019 and doesn't have a single victory dating back to December 2018. Nelson recently signed a new multi-fight contract, and best I can tell, never had a single fight scheduled since the last time we saw him. Nelson turns 34 years of age this coming July ,and I see no scenario in which the time off was a positive. Yet, Gunnar is a popular guy, so I can understand why the UFC extended him a new deal.
Sato has been replacement-level over the course of two UFC appearances, picking up knockout victories over Jason Witt and Ben Saunders, in addition to submission defeats to Miguel Baeza and Belal Muhammad. He was wise to accept this fight because he has nothing to lose, and Gunnar is a big "name."
While the long layoff is a legitimate concern for Gunnar, his two most recent bouts came against Edwards and Gilbert Burns. No disrespect to Sato, but there is a legitimate argument to make that he is the weakest opponent Nelson has faced in at least five or six years. He's going to have to be awfully rusty in order for Sato to pull the upset.
Toss in the fact Sato's submission defense has been abysmal of late, and Gunnar is an easy pick. Nelson is one of the last guys on the roster you want to see if you're slumping on the ground. I expect a rout here.
THE PICK: Nelson
If you like watching talented mat specialists, this is the card for you. Like the previous fight, both Krylov and Craig thrive in the submission game.
The ultimate picture of inconsistency, Krylov has alternated losses and wins since returning to the UFC for his second stint with the company back in September 2018. We've seen some stunning, remarkable knockouts from Krylov over the years, but it's quite clear at this point that he is going to struggle to string together victories if his ground game isn't working. Krylov is a big, physical guy who tries to stay active on the feet, giving him a chance to hang around until his submission skills pop up.
Craig has won three straight and is unbeaten (4-0-1) in his last five. He was originally scheduled to face Alexander Gustafsson last September before Gus withdrew due to injury. The fact Craig is fresh off back-to-back knockout wins (Jamahal Hill, Shogun Rua) is misleading. He's a low-volume striker who tends to struggle in prolonged kickboxing matches. On the plus side, Craig has exceptional cardio, although his chin has been questionable at times.
This fight doesn't do a ton for me from a DK perspective. Submissions are notoriously difficult to predict and that goes double for a fight in which BOTH men excel on the mat. I'm going to take Krylov because of his expected edge in the physicality department, but I love Craig as a Vegas underdog play. Keep in mind that five of Krylov's eight career defeats have come via submission. That makes Craig a more than worthy flier for those seeking a big payoff.
THE PICK: Krylov
Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-6-0) v. Sergei Pavlovich (14-1-0)
DK Salaries: Abdurakhimov ($7,200), Pavlovich ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Abdurakhimov (+245), Pavlovich (-310)
Odds to Finish: -450
THE PICK: Pavlovich